Addressing the 'What if?' scenario

Juneau participates in All-Hazards Community Awareness training

Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2010

What would you do if an explosion happened somewhere in Juneau?

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Kim Andree / Juneau Empire
Kim Andree / Juneau Empire

That was just one emergency situation considered during the first-ever All-Hazards Community Awareness and Preparedness training held Saturday at the Juneau Yacht Club.

"Everybody disseminated what their action would be if this kind of explosion happened here," said Michelle Brown, Emergency Programs grants coordinator for Juneau. "We had all kinds of partners present, a diverse group. Everyone was very cooperative and excited."

More than 56 community members, including first responders, nurses, health professionals and police officers, gathered indoors on a sunny Saturday to learn from National Sheriffs' Association consultants and instructors Don Driskill and Lee Hart.

"We want the citizens to think, 'What if?'" Hart said. "The scenario is, what if there is no law enforcement, there is no fire or public entities and a catastrophic situation were to take place? How do you survive the first 72 hours until either FEMA gets there or (there is) a public facility to help assist you?"

Hart's main goal is to get community members to assess the situation and do what is needed to save people's lives.

"That's our primary objective here, to identify the resources that you have locally, the skills and knowledge that you can utilize in your community," he said. "Also, the skills, whether it be human resources, people who have certain skills locally, your business leaders, your community that has certain organizations - those can all be a resource in a time of need."

The training is done in five one-hour modules and covers terrorism, natural and man-made disasters.

"The day before (we go to a community), we look at the risks of that community," Hart said. "If there was a toxic waste spill, how would you react? Or some areas may have potential threats for terrorism."

Natural disasters such as mudslides, avalanches and tsunamis can be an issue for Southeast Alaska, Brown said.

"We have several different emergencies that could happen here in Juneau," she said. "But the best part is no matter what the emergency, the response is the same. Your plans are just fine-tuned to that event. As long as you have a knowledgeable plan where your assets are and your community partners, it's all the same."

Although these emergencies may never happen, the community is taking proactive steps just in case, Hart said.

"I applaud every community for doing this, because it tells me that an informed community that knows what its resources are is a safer community," he said.

Disasters such as the Haiti and Chile earthquakes are examples of emergency situations where citizens may need to take care of their own needs when first responders are overwhelmed with other immediate responsibilities, Brown said.

"During that time, service organizations, neighbors and friends have to pull together," Brown said. "And it may take days or a few weeks, but as long as you have the ground rules, you can respond correctly."

Saturday's training was initially requested by the Juneau Police Department about two years ago, but it was pushed back due to booking setbacks, Brown said.

The Juneau Local Emergency Planning Committee helped sponsor and promote the event, and the National Sheriffs' Association paid for catering and renting the Juneau Yacht Club.

The National Sheriffs' Association was founded in 1940 and is one of the largest law enforcement organizations in the country.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at kim.andree@juneauempire.com.



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